Regardless of what fans may think they know about the pseudo-sport, Joe Koff guarantees they will witness some very real competition when the stars of New Japan Pro Wrestling invade Ring of Honor for a series of shows this month, including one in Manhattan.
And in some cases, the wrestlers competing against each other won’t even be in the same match.
“What we’re seeing when we watch these two promotions wrestle each other is pride of performance,” said Koff, ROH’s chief operating officer. “Which company really is the best in the world?’ Every combatant that goes into the ring is carrying that mantle. I think it just raises the level of competition and raises the level of entertainment.”
The showcase of international wrestling excellence begins with Sunday’s Global Wars event from Chicago, available on pay-per view, and continues with ROH’s War of the Worlds Tour, which makes a stop at Manhattan’s Terminal 5 on May 14. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
The events will include some of the biggest names in Japanese wrestling, including IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito, "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada and the legendary Hiroshi Tanahashi.
They'll do battle against, and alongside, ROH stars including heavyweight champ Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong and the Briscoe Brothers.
Koff, a Bronx native, said it's the continuation of a "solid partnership" with NJPW, the largest wrestling promotion in Japan. For its own part, ROH, which began as a small independent league out of Philadelphia in 2002, has grown to be widely considered the second largest promotion in the United States, only behind Vince McMahon's juggernaut, WWE.
“We are probably considered in a lot of the fans' minds number two, and I'm really proud of that, if only in the fact that I like to be part of that conversation—not what ranking we are but that we are considered by the fans to be equivalent or surpassing in some areas what is considered to be the largest promotion," Koff said. "I think it's a compliment to the talent that wrestles for us. When someone is invested in Ring of Honor as a fan, the return on investment is very, very good."